The use of antibiotics as a growth-promoter in livestock feed is posing a dangerous risk to human health, according to a new report from the US health department.
The report, published by the Department for Health and Health Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), revealed that over 2 million people fall sick in the US each year with antibiotic-resistant infections, with at least 23,000 dying as a result.
It stated that the “single most important” action needed to slow down the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections was to change the way that antibiotics are used. “Up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe,” it said.
Pointing out that there was “strong evidence” that the use of antibiotics in livestock production was harming human health, the report said antibiotics should only be given to food-producing animals under veterinary oversight “and only to manage and treat infectious diseases, not to promote growth”.
CDC director Tom Frieden said that antimicrobial resistance was one of the most serious health threats facing the US, with infections from resistant bacteria now common and some pathogens resistant to multiple classes of antibiotics.
“Antibiotic resistance is rising for many different pathogens that are threats to health,” he said. “If we don’t act now, our medicine cabinet will be empty and we won’t have the antibiotics we need to save lives.”
The CDC report expressed support for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s draft guidance on the judicious use of antibiotics in humans medicine and livestock production.
“Every time antibiotics are used in any setting, bacteria evolve by developing resistance. This process can happen with alarming speed,” said Steve Solomon, director of CDC’s Office of Antimicrobial Resistance.
“These drugs are a precious, limited resource – the more we use antibiotics today, the less likely we are to have effective antibiotics tomorrow.”